Alumni Spotlight: Shawna Fellenz


Shawna is a Program Operations Director at a non-profit in Arizona. She cares deeply about the community and social justice. Traveling and experiencing other countries and cultures is also important to her as she continues to grow.

Why did you choose this program?

As someone who loves to travel, I didn't want to just visit the "touristy" places--I wanted to experience another culture and be able to spend time with the people who live there. Also, since we have a food bank and senior nutrition programs at the agency I work for, I choose the food outreach program.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

Staff at IVHQ assisted with all the program requirements and their website was clear and easy to navigate--ensuring everything was ready prior to my departure. They had online resources and communicated by email regarding expectations. I did make my own flight arrangements so that I could find the best prices.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

The program was very clear on expectations regarding meals and lodging. I didn't expect luxury accommodations or gourmet food. Be prepared and flexible. Be open to new people and experiences! Plan your travel to give yourself enough time to explore! There is a lot to see and you may want time before and/or after to do further exploration!

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

The first day is orientation, where they cover information about the agency and program expectations. They also take you to your site and show you around the city. Every day, at 8:30 am, I would take the bus to our site and I'd begin helping in the kitchen of a senior living facility. I'd help with a variety of things, such as food prep, serving, cleaning up. I would work until about 2 pm.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I was a little nervous traveling alone, but that is why I choose this project as well. I knew I wouldn't be alone once I got there. I met great people who made the trip even better. Also, the staff were there for any issues that came up as well. I will definitely plan more trips like this when I am traveling alone.

What's your advice to other abroad students?

Be brave! Be open and never stop learning!

I really enjoyed getting to know new people...not just others in the program, but also at the host sites and in the village I stayed in. I met local restaurant owners and learned a lot about the local culture and history by listening. Be a listener and understand that different isn't always wrong.